Slow Your Body Down, Get Back to the Gospel, and...
Other Soulful New Year’s Resolutions I Heartily Do Not Recommend
Now that yet another Canadian professional—a CBC journalist this time –has publicly renounced the woke regime that infests the institutions of this country, and has joined all the other conscientious objectors working here on substack and elsewhere, my first thoughts, naturally, were to gloat. It’s been about five years since the great chill that destroyed public discourse began, and it’s reassuring to see opposition to the clerisy of micro-aggression continue to pick up steam.
But gloating is such an unfortunate way to start a new year and such an ugly word to begin with. Even left as a floating signifier, where that specific arrangement of letters means no particular thing, gloating sounds like nothing good people should ever get caught doing.
One of the last times I was in Calgary, the city where I spent my 20s, I went out, as one does, to the Ship & Anchor Pub. I thought I’d been gone long enough to have been forgotten. But 1) Calgary is a lot smaller than people think; and 2) Turns out reputations are funny things, lingering long after the physical artifact has departed. I overheard two men talking about me. I didn’t’ know them, but apparently they knew me. One said to the other—too loudly and looking directly at me, “He’s not a good person.”
Naturally, as a former scholar of The Smiths and Morrissey, I thought immediately of the lyric, “And is evil just something you are? Or something you do?”
Clearly, my detractors had made up their minds. Easy answer. I was evil. It’s not that I had done wrong, it’s that I was a wrong’un. I didn’t occasionally do bad things. I was bad—in my essence.
I learned a long time ago never to argue with men from Calgary while they are drinking, and I see no reason to deviate from that policy now. Let’s grant that it seems entirely possible that people are born, or become, bad. Equally plausible that badness is permanent and irreversible. Indeed, our society presently operates from this principle. The cancellation and de-platforming of transgressive individuals is based on the belief that misdeeds are not the result of miscalculation or error or human folly, and therefore likely to self-correct over time, but deep-seated and potentially permanent badness that righteous social actors must excise for the greater public good.
I received two vintage soul records over the holidays. Came from a collector in Osaka. Slow Your Body Down by Clifton Dyson (After Hour Records, 1981) and Garnet Mimms’s As Long as I Have You (United Artist Records, 1964). The two records have nothing to do with each other. Barely even the same genre.
Garnet Mimms is from early 1960s West Virginia, a Jackie Wilson-style singer mostly known for having been covered by Janis Joplin. Clifton Dyson is a funky early 1980s disco singer from Brooklyn. In fact, the only thing they have in common, other than having made records which arrived at my house on the same day, is that both Mimms and Dyson unbeknownst to me had become: born-again Christians, who renounced their sinful soul careers to profess the love of big JC Cola instead.
Coincidences I no longer believe in.
I read the tea leaves these days now how about you?
People change. They’re changing all the time.
I find solace, even hope, in knowing that no matter what came before, what comes next is still unwritten.
And to all those who are convinced that evil is unchangeable, and/or that silencing people of opposing views is a righteous endeavour…
…you can all just kiss off into the air.